Dinosaur Tracks; Photo via mcdlttx via Flickr CC
A set of dinosaur tracks that have lasted for 165 million years are now in need of protection, and they're going to get just that. The tracks, which lay alongside the M40 motorway, are at risk from future development, so the area is being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England. A good thing considering they're the only set of tracks like this in England, and one of the few world-wide. Discovery News reports that the site includes footprints from large, vegetarian dinosaurs related to Brontosaurus. The Telegraph states that other tracks are attributed to carnivorous dinosaurs similar to Tyrannosaurus. According to one research report, the Ardley Trackways "reveals over 40 dinosaur trackways, most of them sauropod, but including several giant theropod trackways tentatively attributed to Megalosaurus, the first creature of its kind recognized and assigned to Dinosauria."
They're very rare tracks, and are the only ones that appear in England. That protection will come in the form of not only the new status, but also shelters constructed around them.
Earning status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the tracks will be the first SSSI to be designated based on geological interest. SSSI status is a designation within the UK, and can be biological or geological, exposure sites or deposit sites. While it doesn't necessarily close an area to the public, the law protects the area from development, damage and neglect. According to Natural England, there are 1,226 geological SSSIs in England, with Ardley Trackways being the first purely geological site.
Dr Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England, states, "As a Site of Special Scientific Interest, these unique dinosaur footprints now join the ranks of England's most important wildlife and geological conservation sites. It is important that we continue to look after internationally valuable resources of this type and protect such fascinating insights into our ancient past."
It's quite a wake-up call about our impact on the planet, when tracks that have lasted for so long suddenly need protection from modern humans.
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